Before I get going here, I must advise that you really have to read Red Rising before you read Golden Son or this review. And once you’ve read Red Rising, you will have the ground swept out from under your feet because although Red Rising is a powerful, gripping read, in my opinion, it is blown out of the water by its successor. Golden Son is astonishing. It is so intense it is exhausting, not a single page is wasted. Comparisons are made between Red Rising and Hunger Games and others. In the future, I’ll be very surprised if Red Rising isn’t the series to which others are compared.
Suitably warned, on with the review.
A couple of years have passed since the golden Darrow emerged victorious from the Academy, his friends now scattered across the dominions. Nero au Augustus, ArchGovernor of Mars is shaping Darrow into a creature of war, moulding him with war games, working him into his schemes. But everything is about to collapse as war breaks out between the factions. The Bellona family is set on destroying Augustus, seizing power for themselves, while the sovereign is caught in the middle of chaos, enflamed by her own grand plans. And there, somewhere, watching it all, is Ares, the man who would bring them all down on their heads, the Golds brought low, the Reds risen high and all of the colours in between given their own place in an equal society. But Ares, just like everyone else, is being manipulated. Nobody can be trusted. Enemies become friends while friends are now enemies – Darrow’s personal war with Cassius is all the more tragic because of their former friendship – and no one, especially Darrow, is what they seem. For some, including Darrow, this is agonising.
I don’t want to give anything more away. That would, though, be a difficult thing to do because Golden Son is packed to the gills with so much plot, character development, emotion, drama and action, that I cannot think of anything comparable. The pace is breathtaking, so much so that I had to read this book in frequent short chunks. Darrow is our hero, flawed as he might be, troubled as he most certainly is, and his experiences are overwhelming. I found it impossible to spend too long with him at a time. It was just exhausting, but not in a bad way. In an absolutely fantastic way.
Aside from all the intrigue, fights and even space battles, the temperature is raised yet higher by a series of gobsmacking twists. Some of the things we learn are stunning. Finally we meet Ares, finally others learn the Red truth about Darrow, and what that all means is staggering. I must mention that the ending of Golden Son is a cliffhanger like none other. Unbelievable. I finished it in the small hours of the morning, my heart racing, wailing at Pierce Brown for making me wait for part 3 but also well aware that I’d just finished a very special book indeed.
I didn’t love Red Rising as much as most did. For me, it was war games, and very nasty ones too, for adolescents. It was far too similar to The Hunger Games and I tired of the relentless violence. But I knew that Golden Son would be the book for me. Darrow is now freed of the Academy just as the series is freed of these familiar YA dystopian themes. Golden Son soars, free of the Academy, Mars and of our preconceptions. Darrow has become a leader of men and women. His speeches inspire, his actions impress and devastate, while his private grief wipes us out. The story is told in the first person, by Darrow himself, and the result is an extraordinary, powerful journey. As I’ve said already, it is exhausting, intense, astonishing.
There is more to Golden Son that Darrow. The men and women he leads are every bit as remarkable, each being taken to their personal limit. There is love and so there is also grief – no life is safe in this world. There are plenty of stories here, wrapped around the heart of the novel, which is Darrow.
Golden Son might be one of the earliest books of the year but I have no doubt that it will be counted among the most memorable of 2015’s novels. Pierce Brown is to be applauded for what he’s created. Golden Son is an extraordinary achievement, a tremendous read and is, in my opinion, nothing less than spectacular.